Sometimes Google releases a new algorithm that can send everything into a tailspin because it’s prioritizing or punishing site behaviors or characteristics that it hadn’t before. This can leave everyone scrambling to try to keep up.

Sometimes, though, an algorithm update can send everything into a tailspin because of an unexpected, unintended glitch. This happened earlier this year, significantly impacting some sites but not others and

Google’s index bug is a perfect example, and while it didn’t affect every site, it was chaotic for the sites that were impacted.

Wondering if you were impacted, what this means, and how to recognize future bugs from Google? Let’s take a look at everything we know about the Google index bug and what it means for you.

What Is Google’s Index Bug?

Google updates its search engine daily, almost every three hours. Sometimes one of these updates will have a tiny mistake that can have big impacts.

Google’s index bug was announced in early April and was an actual bug in the algorithm that was causing random site pages to be removed from Google’s search results pages. And when we say random, we mean random, but not insignificant; some sites were heavily affected, some had only some pages not showing up in the SERPs, and others were unaffected entirely.

Google reviewed the bug’s impact over a two-day period in the first week of April, and they weren’t able to determine why some sites and pages were affected and not others. They’re still unsure if it’s something that’s truly random or if there’s some pattern that hasn’t been detected yet.

Sites that were impacted that had their pages deindexed saw a loss in site traffic, conversions, and possibly sales and revenue as a result.

What Does This Mean for Me?

A large number of domains were affected by the indexing bug. Moz, who conducted their own research, found that around half of domains with 10-or-more stable URLs (which had consistently held a certain ranking position in the SERPs saw some loss of ranking URLs.

stats on the big 3 sites

Image source: Moz

Their research did not indicate that deindexing targeted specific sites, but saw that around 4% of Google’s index was impacted. anyone could have been affected… including you.

It’s important to know if your domain and your pages were affected so that you won’t continue to lose out on clicks, traffic, and revenue. It’s also important to note that if your site was de-indexed, you may have lost some of it’s analytical data.

How to Check if Your Site Was Affected

To check if you were one of the unlucky 4% that got hit with Google’s index bug (which you should do, because the end of the bug didn’t mean that all sites were re-indexed), you should log into your Google search console and take a look at your crawl coverage.

search console after index bug

You can look at overall traffic for major dips on any sites that have historically held steady that haven’t righted themselves, and inspect specific URLs on your current domain. Remember to look at specific URLs and not just overall traffic so you can get an idea if specific pages were deindexed; it’s unlikely your entire site was.

how to search in search console

You can also do a Google search for your domain and see what appears on Google. If something doesn’t show up, there’s a good chance it was removed from the index.

google search of bigleap

How to Re-Index Dropped Pages

If you notice that any of your pages are still missing from the SERPs and believe that they’ve been dropped out of Google’s index, the best thing that you can do is to verify the URLs and submit them for reindexing.

You have two options here. The first is to upload a new sitemap to Google’s Search Console, which is a good choice if the majority of your pages were affected or if you’re uploading a new site for some reason and are choosing now. It can take almost a full day for Google to crawl an average site map, so that can take a big chunk of time, but it’s better than having some of your content stay not indexed forever.

new sitemap in search console

You can also use the Search Console’s “URL inspection” tool, which allows you to search for specific URLs within your domain. If it’s not currently indexed, you can request that it is.

screenshot of url inspection in search console

Once reindexed, pages should return to their original rankings in the SERPs, though this may take a bit of time.

Remember that this is well worth the time to do, because if Google can’t find your site, there’s no way that you’ll have a shot of appearing in the SERPs; you aren’t just looking at a downgraded ranking, and all traffic from search could stop to those specific URLs.

Final Thoughts

Google is an exceptional search engine, but every now and then they like to throw us a curveball or two to keep us on our toes. As far as algorithm changes go (intention or otherwise), this was a pretty big curveball for sites impacted.

Check to make sure that none of your URLs have been impacted, and if they have, take action quickly. It’s best to take things into your own hands even though re-indexing can be a pretty tedious process; it’s better than missing out on all those potential clicks.

Want to make sure your sites are performing at the very best of their potential ability, Google index bug or not? Get in touch with us and learn more about how we can help you get the rankings you need.

What do you think? Where you impacted by Google’s index bug? How long did it take to get everything back up and running if you were? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments section below!

Ana Gotter